“Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery,” by Dana Bowman of Lindsborg was recently named to the 2016 Kansas Notable Books List.
“Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery,” by Dana Bowman of Lindsborg was recently named to the 2016 Kansas Notable Books List. The list honors 15 books either written by Kansas authors or about a Kansas-related topic. A memoir about her path to sobriety as a mother of two young children, Bowman's book is a humorous look at a serious topic.
Born and raised in Overland Park, Bowman's father was a recovered alcoholic who warned Bowman she statistically had a 50 percent chance of succumbing to alcoholism.
Bowman thought her odds were good, as she gained a college degree in teaching and went through her 20s and early 30s without participating in the binge drinking and partying other young adults did.
"I was always kind of a go-getter, graduated top of my class," Bowman recalled.
Bowman became an English teacher; then married and moved away from her hometown. The changes and pressures of a new job, new relationship and a new city combined to cause stress in her life that sent Bowman looking for relief in glasses of wine and martinis, which she justified having to relieve her stress, and telling herself it was "sophisticated."
"I really leaned on that glass of wine at the end of a long day of teaching," Bowman said.
Bowman marked her behavior up to not liking her job, being lonely, having a hard time adjusting to married life and homesickness.
Bowman and her husband then moved to Lindsborg and had two children, born 18 months apart. While she was pregnant and nursing, Bowman did not drink, but she battled postpartum depression after each birth. She would be consumed with anxiety and dread and rewarded herself for making it through another day with a glass of wine.
"Alcoholism is very patient. It was slowly increasing every day. A glass, two glasses, a little more every day," Bowman said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a study published in May 2013 that 73.1 percent of adults between the ages of 25 and 44 were current drinkers. Of those adults, 31.3 percent said they had drank excessively (more than five drinks in a single day) at least once in the past year.
Bowman said her increasing dependence on alcohol was easy to hide. She never drove while drunk and rarely suffered blackouts.
"That's the tricky part, because when you don't get arrested or pulled over, there's nothing to tell you to cut it out," Bowman remarked.
Bowman said alcoholism has affected her family for generations. In 2014, Bowman's older brother, Chris, died of liver failure as a result of alcoholism.
Bowman did not want to live in misery anymore. Although she knew would have to give up drinking, it took six months from the moment she realized her life had to change until she would be ready to get help. As Bowman drank what would be her last glass of wine, her legs gave out from under her and she phoned her husband, finally admitting she had a problem.
"It was a very spiritual experience," Bowman said of her collapse. "God doesn't do that with all alcoholics....he really cleared the airways for me to hear him."
Bowman started going to a 12-step program and turned her passion for writing into an outlet to stay sober and to share her feelings, with humor lacing the stories of the real struggles she was enduring. At first, her posts on momsieblog.com focused on her postpartum depression, but Bowman realized she wanted to chronicle her journey of recovery and reach out to other mothers in the same situation to encourage them.
Bowman published the article "As a Mom in Recovery, How Do I Explain My Addiction to My Kids?" for a recovery website. The piece was picked up by The Huffington Post, who also produced a video interview with Bowman.
After that experience, Central Recovery Press called Bowman and asked her to write a book about her recovery. She asked if they were joking. When she was assured of their sincerity, Bowman poured her experiences into “Bottled.” Bowman said the book was easy to write but that the consequences of going public with her story, especially while living in a small town, were daunting.
"We really put ourselves out there and we do that hard thing for the good of ourselves and others," Bowman said. "I wanted other moms to see that this is a disease and that yes, it's shameful and embarrassing ... but only if we hide in our houses and keep drinking."
After the book was published, Bowman said people responded to her positively, relishing her irreverent style. Bowman ends each chapter of "Bottled" with a top 10 list counting down such items as "Top Ten Annoying Recovery Slogans That Actually Work."
"I hate that word, 'sober,' I'm a funny person," Bowman said. "I felt like sobriety was going to be this really gray life. It's not."
Bowman is planning a second book and is speaking of her recovery around the country.
"As moms of little kids, we are isolated," Bowman said. "Drinking is a really easy out for a lot of moms."
Explaining her addiction to her children, Bowman uses examples that they can understand, such as wanting to watch TV all the time.
"I want my children to mainly know the word 'recovery'...we've had some discussions about why mommy goes to meetings and alcohol," Bowman said. "I want to talk to them about what addiction is...alcohol is not bad, but alcohol with Dana is bad."
Bowman now writes, reads, runs and takes her children to swim lessons; activities that keep her from taking another drink.
"It's been a tough road...not always pink, fuzzy unicorns, recovery is really hard," Bowman said. "There are still days where I have massive social anxiety...it will always be a part of who I am and will always be there."